THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- POOF AND AWE PART 1

by: Wes Ishmael

Squeak Jablowski was just warming up the intimate gathering for the exclusive New Year's magic show presented by the Rio Rojo Cattlemen's Association.

Squeak started by greeting the audience and then plucking live goldfish from the air with an invisible fishing rod, depositing them in a giant bowl set up on a colorful stand.

“I knew you spent too much on tackle,” Peetie Womack's wife said loud enough for everyone to hear, elbowing him the ribs.

Next, Squeak called for Bugsy, his on stage assistant. She brought out a small side-table and his magic wand. Squeak thanked her and set his wand atop the table, which collapsed immediately. He made a show out of putting the table together again. It collapsed once more as soon as the wand got close to it. Finally, after a couple more similar attempts, Bugsy, pushed Squeak aside in mock disgust. She put the table back together again, whacked it hard with the magic wand and then hoisted herself up to sit on it.

The crowd loved it.

“It's just like I always tell Peetie here..,” Mrs. Womack started. It has his turn to use the elbows.

Now, Squeak placed a bright red box on the newly secured table. He held up Delmar Jacob's giant Siamese rabbit, Matilda, placed her inside the box and closed the lid. Squeak tapped the box with his magic wand. He opened the lid to show nothing but emptiness. He unhinged each side of the box so the audience could see there was no secret compartment. Still, no Matilda.

“I'm going to miss her,” Delmar sniffed before taking a long draw on his party punch.

Karma By Any Other Name

You might remember meeting Squeak a few years back. He was a reluctant bull rider who turned scared. Then he was a scared bull fighter. After a run-in with a bucket-eared, tiger-striped bull called Dumbo's Revenge, Squeak disappeared.

By the time Squeak showed up at Hooter's a few years back he had become the most sought-after kid's show magician in the Southwest. He longed to become a master wizard, though, like Howard Thurston, David Devant, Harry Keller, Charles Carter, Harry Blackstone, all of the greatest magicians in history.

Squeak enlisted Hooter's help in constructing props and a theatre at the spooky and moldering old Thayer place on the outskirts of Apache Flats so that he could build and perfect his show. It culminated with a free-multi-day magic show for anyone who wanted to attend. It was spectacular. Squeak was flying high. The penultimate trick was to be the replication of a feat performed by Harry Houdini at the Hippodrome Theatre in New York decades earlier: vanishing a full-grown elephant.

Problem was that Hooter couldn't find an elephant.

“It doesn't have to be an elephant,” Squeak had told him. “Just something alive, easy for the audience to recognize, and big. As my manager, I'm sure you'll think of something.”

Hooter's solution was Teddy, the herd sire for Aunt Pinky's nascent bucking bull program.

Hooter never told Squeak about the substitute because he figured: a) Squeak had to be over his fear of bulls; b) the crowd could relate a lot more to a bucking bull than an elephant; c) he had no way of knowing that during his rodeo career Teddy was known as Dumbo's Revenge, the very bull that planted Squeak head-first in the knee-deep mud at Steamboat Springs, pushing him over the edge.

When Squeak saw Teddy aka Dumbo, he vanished again, before the trick was even finished. Hooter never heard from him again until Squeak showed up the day before Christmas Eve. It was the first time Hooter had a chance to apologize for using Teddy.

If a job's worth starting…

Squeak draped an arm around Hooter's shoulder. “You did me a favor. I thought I was over them bulls, knowing deep down I really wasn't. It took seeing Teddy like that to convince me I needed to get some help.”

“And, did you?” Hooter wondered, half scared to hear the answer.

Squeak looked blank and shuddered for just an instant. “Yep. It was a combination of immersion and shock therapy,” Squeak began, one eyebrow beginning to twitch intermittently like a caterpillar with the hiccups. “The shrinks told me to go somewhere and do something that put me in contact with bulls 24-7; that was the immersion part. So, I hired on with a seedstock producer who shall remain nameless. I was buried in bulls for months, some with lousier dispositions than anything I ever set down on. I even went to a couple of shows and hung out behind the chutes.”

“What about the shock part of it?” Hooter asked.

“That's what really did the trick,” Squeak said with a more pronounced shudder. “They call it substitutive shock therapy.”

“Huh?”

Squeak shook again. “In extreme cases like mine, they help you transfer your fear of one thing to another, with the other thing being something you're likely to never see for real, versus the thing you were scared of to start with that you're more likely to encounter.”

“So, what did you transfer your fear to?” Hooter wondered, still unconvinced.

“Let's just leave it lay, shall we?” Squeak snapped back, firmer than Hooter had ever heard him.

“You bet, Squeak.” Hooter slapped him on the back. “I'm more tickled to see you than you can know, but what brings you by, especially with the weather fixing to get ugly?”

“To finish what I started with that magic show here,” the magician said. “I never did finish that grand finale at the old Thayer place.”

“You don't have to do that Squeak. Everyone loved the show; they still talk about it and still wonder how you did all the things you did. They hated to see you go so sudden. Besides, the old Thayer place is gone, leveled by a twister two years ago.”

Squeak was looking way off in the distance.

“What about the props for the show?”

“Oh, I've still got those. Everything is packed up and out in the shop, except for that one for elephant; it was too big. I figured you would have been back here for them by now.”

So it was that Hooter was once again helping Squeak put together a magic spectacular.

The next week was wall-to-wall, measuring, sawing, pounding, gluing, doing and undoing.

Hooter was happy to see Squeak so carefree and relaxed, like he always remembered him being before the bulls started to get to him.

“You know Hooter, getting ready for a magic show is like a gargantuan version of a single trick,” Squeak told him.

“How's that?” Hooter wondered as tried to suck the pain from yet another smashed thumb.

“I don't know how true it is, but supposedly back in the 1800's, magicians said there were three parts to every trick: the setup, the performance and the payoff, the effect, what they called the prestige. Putting the show together is the same process.”

The Prestige

So, here was Squeak in all his glory, gracefully making things appear, disappear and trade places as if by, well, magic.

After plucking enough coins from nowhere to fill a Folgers coffee can past overflowing, Squeak found Nelda Isselfrick in the crowd and asked her for the time. Nelda looked at her bony left wrist where her heirloom watch always dangled and then she looked up in fear.

“It's…it's gone…”

“Perhaps this will help,” Squeak said ambling toward her with a wide grin and the cherished watch dangling from his fingers.

The crowd was lots more appreciative of Squeak's pickpocket exhibition than Nelda.

“Young man,” Nelda seethed in Squeak's ear as he leaned over to put the watch back on her, “You try that again and I'll make your teeth disappear.” She gave him a quick, sharp rap on the forehead with her cane handle for emphasis.

To be continued…







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